There are a few axis points I think are important for the discussion on subjectivity, one being inter-subjectivity in the embodied Hegelian sense, against a Habermasian conception of communicative inter-subjectivity that focuses on the deeper stratum of rationality and (soft) linguistic teleology. The second is Liebnizian/Spinozian/Deleuzian subject monism versus a comparative structure. Of course there is an unavoidable ground for some degree of comparison, but the monistic account can suffer that on the instance of the subject being validated on its own standards.
It is difficult to plot the axis for this distinction before parsing out whether a Spinozian subject monism meets the anti-humanist claims which are made for it. Before really going through with a critique of this it would perhaps be important to reread some of Delueze’s work on Spinoza. However, I think there are substantial grounds in the Ethica for dismissing a radical anti-humanist interpretation. Especially looking into the affects there is an almost liberal account of subjectivity, combining Liebniz’ monad with some proto-version of the will to power, or more accurately an Epicurean relationship to activity and passivity which seeks to rationally plot life in such a way as to become most happy/active. Spinoza believes there is some space for being affected in a positive way (in “love”, and “nobility”) but generally relies on the core argument that utter self-sufficiency and control are the stabilizing factors in maintaining a happy life. This is at the heart of the Ethics, and plugs deeply into the metaphysical structure of the book, as the active subject becomes more and more godly the less it relies on others, or merely receives affects as “passions”. There is something profoundly humanistic in the account, and perhaps even hubristic despite Spinoza’s warnings against pride. Most notably perhaps in Spinoza’s disdain for humility, which he describes as degrading to the individual.
Of course this is all to be taken in terms of a more general structure which certainly dethrones the human in a way, especially when we’re given the anti-Cartesian A2 in EII, which mockingly states: “Man thinks”, and the definition of a body itself (EIId1): “By body I understand a mode that in a certain and determinate way expresses God’s essence insofar as he is considered as an extended thing.” This brings up another intresting axis of the Ethica generally, which is that the focus on “The mind” in the chapter on the affects, and its ability to overcome the passions, seems to almost reintroduce a mind/body duality, despite such radical definitions of mind as just the idea of the body (this of course opens up a whole discourse regarding parallelism which I will skip for now). There is a way in which these more general structures that seem exciting are undermined in the chapter on the affects, by rendering them almost void in the way the structural elements actually play out.
So the question of “anti-humanism” in Spinoza seems far more complicated than the charts I am constructing will allow, though the Hegelian in me wants to just stuff him the subject-based monad corner. This corner is extremely problematic in its own right, as it certainly plays a huge role in liberal idealogy/individualism (perhaps I should look at Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism), but also seems to be making a re-emergence as a radical idea. This is the question of “pluralism”, which I am excited about, but my gut reaction is to qualify it as inter-subjective pluralism, rather than monadic, perhaps falling somewhere between my provisional designation for Spinoza and the Habermasian completely structure-based account (maybe a slightly less consciousness oriented Hegelianism). If anyone has some clarifying passages or books on this topic please send them over!
My final concern, having just finished Kompridis’ book on Habermas, is his brand of what I will call “hard inter-subjectivity”, which reacts to Habermas’ structural account to such an extent that there is the romantic stink of humanism. There is a good reason to take the other to reason perhaps, especially if were going to have an account that considers factors like environment and non-human animals (though I am generally critical of many accounts which focus too hard on these issues, and miss some of the deeper problems occurring). The useful bit that I got from Critique and Disclosure, is that idea of “receptivity” as method of being active in receiving, which beautifully disrupts the rigidity of the Spinozian active/passive grid.
I am also interested in thinking about this in terms of Marx’ Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and the Hegelian account of “Substance as Subject”, which construct a really solid account of the dialectic interplay which undermines the traditional narrative of “consciousness versus nature”, but in the end are perhaps a bit too far on the consciousness side of it. Marcuse will probably be helpful in such a consideration.
The main thing I hope to work out from this discussion would be getting at the wiring behind class-consciousness, and how to think about a collective phenomenology of class struggle. I want to work around sites of common oppression in such a way that harmonizes between the collective totality and the particular, so that dialogue and structures can be built without the necessity of folding in difference. Mainly I want to explore how we can consider difference not to be a problem, but as strategic towards achieving an intersectional, broad-based, and militant party structure.
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